“He did evil in the eyes of the Lord, just as his father had done.”
2 Kings 24:9 (NIV)
One of the things I’ve observed along my life journey is that we live in a universe that is of incredible design. In this amazingly designed world, systems create patterns. Wisdom can be found in discovering patterns of thought, patterns of behavior, patterns of relationship, patterns of generations, and patterns of spirit. Destructive patterns can be addressed and changed. Healthy patterns can be enhanced and replicated.
As I traverse this chapter-a-day journey, one of the things I try to see and recognize is patterns.
For example, one of the themes in the Great Story is the importance of the patterns of the family system and generations. When God first prescribes his “way” through Moses, this family/generational pattern was part of the prescription:
Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them. Remember the day you stood before the Lord your God at Horeb, when he said to me, “Assemble the people before me to hear my words so that they may learn to revere me as long as they live in the land and may teach them to their children.”
Deuteronomy 4:9-10 (NIV)
Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates, so that your days and the days of your children may be many in the land the Lord swore to give your ancestors, as many as the days that the heavens are above the earth.
Deuteronomy 11:18-21 (NIV)
But, as I read the history of the Kings of Israel and Judah, something broke down in the system, beginning all the way back with David, who had a blind spot when it came to his children born from his many wives. Over the past two days, the chapters have told the story of good King Josiah, who exemplified single-hearted, life-long devotion to God, unlike any king since David the author tells us. In the telling, we learn that God’s prescriptions to the Hebrews to “remember” and “teach” their legacy and God’s way to subsequent generations had been forgotten and lost for some 800 years.
In today’s chapter, however, we read of the quick succession of two of Josiah’s sons, his grandson, and his brother. All of them, the author reports, “did evil in the sight of the Lord.” The reforms of Josiah were isolated and short-lived. The healthy “pattern” God had prescribed had not been followed and another, destructive pattern emerged that ultimately led to the downfall of the nation and the Babylonian exile.
In the quiet this morning, I’m meditating on the important natural patterns of family and family systems, both healthy and not-so-healthy. Even Jesus’ earthly family initially rejected Him and thought He was crazy. I’m also mindful that Jesus expanded the paradigm of “family” in His teaching:
Then Jesus’ mother and brothers arrived. Standing outside, they sent someone in to call him. A crowd was sitting around him, and they told him, “Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you.”
“Who are my mother and my brothers?” he asked.
Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.”
Mark 3:31-35 (NIV)
I have tried, and have honestly, often failed, at following and exemplifying God’s prescribed pattern of teaching my children the way of Jesus and the Great Story. Doing so may have influenced but does not guarantee that my children will follow in my spiritual footsteps. In fact, like David, my failings may have had greater influence than my teaching. And there’s the rub. God prescribed a spiritually ideal pattern to flawed humans who can’t and won’t follow the pattern perfectly. Things break down. Which is why I need the grace and mercy of Jesus, and my children and grandchildren.
If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.